Press - 2003

The Dominion Post
Fellowship of the Elves
by Bess Manson
1 December 2003

THE ethereal elfin princess Arwen in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy could have ended up more a Xena Warrior Princess if Hollywood movie-star Liv Tyler hadn't put her well pedicured foot down.

The actor spent the first four months in New Zealand before filming for The Fellowship of the Ring even began in fight training, wielding swords and all manner of other weaponry. Arwen, she says, was initially incorporated as a selling point to the studio as a sword-fighting adventurer. " I was training with 20 stunt doubles. We were choreographing entire fight scenes for Arwen where I slaughtered like 20 Uruk-hai at one time. It was really scary for me. I wasn't naturally comfortable with all that. I was just panicked."

Eventually, all parties realised the character should be a little more true to the one in JRR Tolkien's book. "It was a struggle for all of us. It wasn't working for them and it wasn't working for me. "When we were able to admit that it wasn't working and we were able to bring her back to what she was in the book that's when the whole world just opened up for me. "I found it really liberating and exciting. I felt like I had ... like I had been given a second chance."

The Arwen that made it to the screen certainly seems to have got the thumbs-up from the millions of people that have watched her in the three films. And though Tyler has starred in many films, including Stealing Beauty and Armageddon, she doesn't mind if people here have forever pegged as the elfin princess who gave up immortality for love.

"I find it touching. I remember as a kid thinking of Princess Leia and I won't ever think of Carrie Fisher [as another character] again." Tyler was teamed up with British actor Orlando Bloom for a round of press interviews yesterday ahead of tonight's world premiere of The Return of the King. For Bloom, the chance to play the decidedly cute and rather clever elf Legolas was beyond any of his wildest dreams and put him in another league.

The Lord of the Rings is like the World Cup of film projects, he says. He has since gone on to play alongside Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean and Brad Pitt in Troy. Add to that three movies with Viggo Mortensen and that just about covers the biggest leading men in the business, he says.

Bloom, who scored the role of Legolas straight out of drama school, called director Peter Jackson "a visionary". "He was just the coolest customer. He kept the ball rolling at all times but at a really graceful pace, even though often it felt like we were trying to wrangle a wild horse. "Looking back over the last three films, it's unbelievable that he achieved that. The dedication and the concentration and the group effort needed to do that. It's an incredible feat. It really is a miracle."

Bloom and Tyler - whose first call on arriving in Wellington this time was to her facialist Margaret Hema - admit it had been hard committing to four years tripping back and forth between Europe and the States to New Zealand to complete the film. But what has come along with that is incredible, Tyler says. And there was no where else in the world where she could wake up and see her picture as big as it was on the front page of Friday's Dominion Post. Bloom says he really grew up during his time here. "It was like a coming of age period for me. It was like I really found myself in New Zealand."


The Dominion Post
The Star Touch
by Bess Manson
3 July 2003

Wellington facialist Margaret Hema has a client list most businesses would die for, and discretion to match.

IT'S a clear summer's day in 1966 and thousands of Wellingtonians are lining the streets hoping to get a glimpse of visiting American president Lyndon B Johnson. One young woman in the crowd, dressed in a faux Chanel suit and stiletto heels, is Margaret Hema. To the 20-year-old's surprise the president's long black car stops right beside her. To her jaw-dropping amazement, he leans out, takes her hands and places a golden pen from his inside pocket in them.

The next day the young woman from Taita was pictured in The Evening Post under the caption "The girl with the golden hands". It was fate, really, says Hema 37 years later, just a street away from her encounter with the president. "I have spent my whole life working with my hands. And Americans have made a significant impact on my business."

Hema is a facialist who can be found in her small, intimate salon in the labyrinth of rooms above the Harbour City Centre treating everyone from Liv Tyler to your average Jane on the street. And when the pixie-like Hema is not using her golden hands to give facials she is hand mixing her own oils, which are used by Hollywood stars, London models, the Royal New Zealand Ballet company and many more. But I want some inside gossip. I want to know about Liv Tyler's pimples, about Elijah Wood's blemishes and Cate Blanchett's pores.

Hema is far too smart to start spilling the intimate details of her most famous movie star clients who visit her each time they come to New Zealand for filming of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The list is impressive, though: Tyler, Wood, Miranda Otto, Blanchett, Sean Bean, Dominic Monaghan. And then there are the crew and executives. I don't care about the crew and executives. Tell me about Liv! Tyler likes to talk during her facial sessions but Hema won't say what about. "Liv is lovely," Hema says with some emotion and a faraway look. "Liv is extraordinarily beautiful with what I call old soul presence. That's the only way I can describe it. Her presence is calm. Her persona is so much wiser and older than her years."

Tyler has asked Hema for products for her rock star father Steve Tyler. "She said to me, `He [her father] is like you, Margaret he looks after himself'.' She also said her hairdresser in New York would love to get his hands on natural products like Hema's for his other famous clients.

Wood, too, is "lovely", she says. He and the other Rings lads are professional young men "with great eye contact and humour, warmth and respect". "They always ask about my family and my children and grandchildren," she says. "Elijah always remembers the last conversation we had. He always asks me about the family and what I'm up to." Elijah loves her day cream, she adds confidingly. "I give him two or three pots at a time but then I sort of back off. My job is done." But what is she thinking when Wood is on the table looking up at her with those big saucer-sized eyes? She's not saying. But I know what they are saying about her.

Hema's website is crammed with messages from the stars. Wood is complimentary to the point of being gushy. "Margaret is the most beautifully warm and soulful person I have ever had the pleasure of being relaxed and pampered by," he writes. "Her products are as warm and delicious as she is." Whoa! Tyler praises the products and ends her message with "Thank you for all your warmth and kindness, with love from your friend." Your friend? These guys sound like they might go shopping together, drink wine together, share secrets. And keep them too, it appears. She will admit, though, that the actress took her out to dinner with some of the other stars of the film last month when she came back for pick-up shots for The Return of the King.

Long before The Lord of the Rings stars began using her oils, Hema peddled them to the Royal New Zealand Ballet. "I remember giving them to Sir Jon Trimmer and all the principal dancers to test out. I remember sitting on the bus driving past the Opera House on opening night and I was sweating thinking what if it doesn't work? What a big fool I have made of myself." But Hema is no fool. The ballet company endorsed the oils and Sir Jon is a regular user. She makes the dancers little vials of the potion-like oils. When they run out she collects the vials, washes them out, "fan bakes them", then returns them full of oil.

Hema is a family-run business. Son Quentin, an artist on The Lord of the Rings, does the design work for his mother's products. Older daughter Donyale, who also works on the films, has researched and promoted the products for years. Her youngest daughter Tamara promotes them in London. Tamara's mate, London-based facialist Anastasia Achilleos, whose client list is "too amazing to list" (though we're talking A-list here) says Hema oils are some of the best she has used. Another friend, Sadie Frost, wife of actor Jude Law, uses the oils and loves them, Tamara says. Hema began her career with her golden hands as a Mary Quant consultant in the old DIC building, now the Harbour City Centre the same building that now houses her studio.

After a stint living in Sydney she returned to New Zealand and began giving facials to friends on an ad-hoc basis. In 1981 she took a course in aromatherapy and in 1983, with the break-up of her 20-year marriage, she returned to Sydney to do a beauty therapy course. She started her own business back in New Zealand three years later with $2000. "I couldn't even afford to go in the Yellow Pages." She was working with all sorts of products but soon began "dipping her fingers in her own oils". It took a decade to perfect the oils she now sells.

She couldn't have done it without the help of Lady Southgate (wife of conductor Sir William Southgate), who willingly provided her face for Hema to test her products on.

Fourteen years on and with a client list (including the loyal Lady Southgate) that must be the envy of any Wellington business, Hema is still in her eccentric and heady-smelling studio in the Harbour City Centre. She has fought the urge and the encouragement to expand the business. For now it works just fine. "I only see three or four people a day so I can keep the energy up. I don't run it like a supermarket. When I feel tired I just shut the door." It was never about making a million or courting famous clients, Hema says. "For me it was about giving the best facials I could, dipping my hands into my own oils. Anything else is destiny."


The Dominion Post
An excerpt from "Dry as a bone"
by Carolyn Enting, Fashion Editor
11 June 2003

For many women, a facial is a good first step toward rejuvenating the skin, and I chose Wellington facialist Margaret Hema, whose clients include Lord of the Rings stars Liv Tyler and Elijah Wood. "I'm going to give you a drink," she said as soon as she touched my face.

At first I wondered how she knew I was thirsty, then I realised she was talking about my skin. Using her own blend of extra-virgin cold-pressed avocado oil infused with manuka honey, she gave me an intensive rehydrating treatment, and after an hour my skin and I were rejuvenated, revived and revitalised. Like a born-again Christian, I snapped up her Hema-brand avocado cleansing oil, and face and body oil and have been singing her praises ever since.